from "The Joyful Child"
Michael Olaf's Essential Montessori for Birth to Three

At this link it is now possible to order the The Joyful Child, which is a 70-page Montessori overview and catalogue of appropriate toys, tools, and materials for the home or school that support the Montessori philosophy for educating the child from birth to three years of age.

Every time a child is born
it brings with it the hope that God
is not yet disappointed with man.

—Rabrindranath Tagore, Poet Laureate of India and Montessorian

Becoming Parents

Today, young couples need all the help society can give them to prepare for being parents. Geographically removed from family, isolated from neighbors, tantalized by glamorized pictures of family life in the media, and usually trying to maintain a good standard of living by both parents working, many couples are ill-prepared for parenting.
It is becoming more and more obvious that the first three years of life have the greatest influence on the entire life of a person. We must all share what we know about this period of life with anyone who will listen—from adolescents to adults.

Great strides have been made in preparing parents for a more natural childbirth, and in alerting them to the importance of breast feeding, but a couple also needs more information about the first hours, days, months and years of life.

Time and energy put into the beginning of life is the greatest investment anyone can make.

Communicating with the Baby
Before Birth

We know very little about what a baby really experiences during those nine months in the womb, what he senses, feels, intuits, thinks about, understands. But let us offer the best that we can, singing, playing beautiful music, talking to him.

Experts who study the acquisition of language tell us that the basis for learning oneís mother tongue begins in the womb. In the study of the lives of great musicians it is often found that the exposure to good music also began in the womb.

Parents who learn songs to sing to their babies long before they are born find that these songs are very soothing to the infant after birth.

In 1995 I met with Mrs. Shinichi Suzuki, of the Suzuki Method of Talent Education, in Matsumoto, Japan, to share ideas on environments for babies. Just as with Montessori, the purpose of Suzuki is to create a loving relationship between child and adult, to give the child the joy of accomplishment and developed talents, and, by meeting the needs of children, to help create a more peaceful society. We discussed the best way to help children and agreed that our work must begin before birth. Today Suzuki parent education classes, given to help parents prepare for their infants, are similar in many ways to Montessori parent education classes.

The skin, the first and most important sense organ, is complete after seven or eight weeks of pregnancy. The sense of smell is ready to function by the second month of pregnancy. The sense of taste is active by the third month. The ear completes its structural development during the second to the fifth month of pregnancy.

It is possible that the fetus absorbs the particular characteristic rhythms of the motherís language. In a sense the fetus is already at work, learning language!
It is thus important to sing to the child even during pregnancy.
The brain's growth during fetal life is astonishing, with 20,000 cells being added every minute. Dreaming begins at the end of the seventh month of pregnancy.

—Silvana Montanaro, M.D., AMI Montessori teacher trainer

If you would like to see more information on Montessori theory and practice from birth to age 12 and beyond, links to lectures, information on Montessori teacher training, books and other materials for the home and school, and more, go to: The Michael Olaf home page The text on this page is reprinted from several different versions of The Joyful Child, with permission of The Michael Olaf Company.

Copyright 2009, The Michael Olaf Montessori Company
Please E-mail for reprint permission, but feel free to link this page to any site for educational purposes.

  • Becoming Parents
  • Preparing the Home to Welcome the Newborn
  • Communicating with the Baby
    Before Birth
  • Preparation of the Adults
    in the Environment

    Preparing the Home to
    Welcome the Newborn

    Of all the baby equipment on the market today which new parents often think they need, very little is necessary or even good for the new baby.

    I once watched the wonderful natural curiosity of a new kitten in our house— how it tested itself against the challenges of moving in every possible way around the living room, carefully examining each object and the best way for its body to move over, under, and around it. I was reminded of watching babies moving freely in Montessori parent-infant environments. Imagine how the natural development of kittens would be affected if there were such things as kitten cribs with covers, kitten slings, swings, walkers, and pacifiers.

    How can one help babies to explore with their bodies, to develop grace and confidence in movement? This is important to think about as you prepare for a new baby.

    While in the womb a child has already been exercising muscles and listening to sounds. After birth she will learn to move on her own and to explore, at first visually, and then with every physical ability at her command. At first she will study the room with her eyes and ears and, after strengthening arms and legs with baby push-ups, will head for the objects to explore further.

    To support this visual and tactile discovery it is best if the child's room can stay the same for the first year. So it is very important to put a lot of thought into just how to arrange this environment.

    As you go through the process of preparing baby's room, sit or lie in the middle of it and then crawl around, listening and looking in all directions. Will it be safe? Interesting? Beautiful?

    The newborn will spend a lot of time exploring the environment visually, but every child follows a unique timetable of being ready to crawl to those things he has been looking at, so that he may finally handle them. This visual, followed by tactile, exploration is very important for many aspects of human development. We can help our child with this process by providing a clear view and freedom to explore, if we provide a floor bed or mattress on the floor and a completely safe room rather than a crib or playpen with bars. It helps to think of this as a whole-room playpen with a baby gate at the doorway and every square inch explored for interest and safety.

    If the newborn is going to share a room with parents or siblings we can still provide a large, safe, and interesting environment.

    A bed should be one which the baby can get in and out of on his own as soon as he is ready to crawl. Besides being an aid to development, this arrangement does a lot to prevent the common problems of crying because of boredom or exhaustion.
    Eventually he will explore his whole room with a gate at the door and gradually the baby-proofed and baby-interesting remainder of the house.

    These are the beginning stages of independence, concentration, movement, self-esteem, decision-making, and healthful development of the body, the mind, and the spirit.

    Preparation of the Adults
    in the Environment

    Research has shown that the extent and quality of care the mother provides the child are strongly conditioned by the way they spend their time together during the first days after birth.

           —Dr. Silvana Montanaro

    When a couple is getting ready to have a first child they are about to take on the most important role there is. It is strange that so much more time and energy is put into preparing for a career, building a home, or other adult endeavor, than into preparing to be a parent, when it is a far more challenging and long-lasting role. It is very important to start studying, before the child is born, about how to parent, especially during the first three years of the child's life.

    Many of us who had our children before encountering the wonderful Montessori ideas, experienced grief that we did not know these things when our children were born, indeed, that our parents did not know them when we were born! Our first response, before observing the joy of children who had been raised this new way, was quite naturally to defend how we had raised our children.

    Seeing that this wisdom and these ideas really do make a difference—in the individual child, the family, and society as a whole—we are happy to pass on the information to anyone who is interested.

    The single most important element in an infant's environment is the loving wisdom of the adult. Nothing material can substitute for time and attention during these early months. We must provide, above all, a family who will develop a long-term relationship with the child.

    The earliest moments in life, the first minutes and hours, are the most impressionable for both child and adults. This is the time when the basic instincts of parenting are awakened, and the bonding and trust of the infant is developed. Nothing is more valuable in preparing for a happy life.